AWS CEO Andy Jassy's Love Of Music And Its Role At AWS re:Invent

‘Apart from the sensory pleasure of hearing great music that's catchy, what I love most about music is the artistry, passion and community that great musicians bring to bear,’ says AWS CEO Andy Jassy. ‘Skilled lyrical writing is like poetry.’


Editor’s note: When Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy steps on stage for his keynote address at AWS re:Invent 2019 in Las Vegas today, partners and customers can expect a musical accompaniment to his delivery.

A live band has backed Jassy at re:Invent for the last few years, and the avid music fan has a hand in selecting the songs whose lyrics tie into his keynote themes and announcements. Last year’s choices included Queen’s “I Want It All,” The Beatles’ “Blackbird,” “A Little Less Conversation” by Elvis Presley, “I’ve Been Waiting” by Matthew Sweet and The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go.”

Jassy was headed to a Shawn Colvin concert at the Beacon Theatre in New York City when he got the initial call for an interview at Amazon back in 1997, and he eventually ran Amazon’s music business.

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Here, Jassy describes his passion for music, the evolving lineups of artists on his playlist rotations over the years and why music plays a part at AWS re:Invent.

By Andy Jassy

I have loved music from the time I was very young. My family all liked music, and I played guitar, piano and saxophone as a kid -- though none of them as well as both of my kids play guitar now.

From the time I was young, I was attending lots of concerts. In high school, I was really into the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello and Traffic. In college, Guns N’ Roses and the Cult. Post-college, Black Crowes, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Shawn Mullins, Willy Porter and Shawn Colvin jumped onto that list. My very favorites now are Foo Fighters, Dave Matthews Band and Brandi Carlile. But there are so many I love, that it's too long a list to name, including emerging artist Vampzilla, who happens to be my daughter, but is an amazing songwriter. I have a particular passion for discovering new artists. It's like finding a secret.

I've also been interested in the mechanics of the music industry for many years. When in graduate school, I helped manage an up-and-coming band in Boston named Two Ton Shoe and wrote a business plan for a new music management idea that became my second-year field study at business school. At Amazon, I wrote the business plan for our entry into the music business and eventually ran the business for a while.

Apart from the sensory pleasure of hearing great music that's catchy, what I love most about music is the artistry, passion and community that great musicians bring to bear. Skilled lyrical writing is like poetry. Some of the best lyricists have a way of capturing a feeling or an emotion or a paradox or a way of thinking about hard situations that is inspiring and makes you think. Watching a live musician lay it out there for an audience, giving it every ounce of their energy, acting out the music and caring deeply for their craft is captivating. And, in a world where there is so much division, music remains one of the true unifiers and community-builders, as it brings together people of all races, religions, sexual orientation, politics, socio-economic backgrounds and nationalities to sing and dance and experience something special together.

All of this is what led us to think about including a live band in my re:Invent keynote, which we've done a few years in a row now. Many artists have already poetically captured the themes we're trying to share in my keynote, and framing each keynote theme with the music and associated lyrics is a fun way to break through the monotony of people speaking and try to drive home what we think matters most.